From auto-pilot to taking control

Until last March our policy on Turkey’s EU accession was based on three – naive – notions. – First, that Europe wants Turkey to be a full member. – Secondly, that Turkey is justified in wanting to join Europe. – Thirdly, that as Turkey joins Europe, the Union will rein in the aggressiveness of the «wild beast.» All these notions have been shown to be wishful thinking. It has already become apparent that a wave of displeasure has emerged from within European society. It also appears that Turkey itself is divided by the prospect of its future in Europe. Islamists within the government are in favor of democratic reforms in order to marginalize the military. The Kemalists are trying to avoid these same reforms so Turkey does not become an Islamist republic. Finally, it has become clear that Europe cannot tame the «wild beast.» There are member states who have tried to propitiate Turkey rather than tame it. There are others that are trying to keep it out altogether. So Ankara’s hostile behavior to Greece has not changed, but from now on it will not only have Greece to deal with. For if Turkey joins a Union without first having recognized one of its member states – Cyprus – then the Union’s standing as an entity will have been weakened. If, on the other hand, Turkey joins the Union while continuing to threaten a member state – Greece – then it would be a blow both to Greece and the EU. As for Greece’s national interest, Turkey’s accession process as proposed by the European Commission is the «best strategy» for us because it opens the way for the marginalization of the Turkish military. However, this will only happen if we raise our own national security problems as «European terms,» which Ankara will have to abide by in future. From the point of view of the EU’s interest, Turkey’s accession does not contribute to European integration. Among other things, it completely upsets the budget, which cannot shoulder the cost of letting Turkey join. Let it suffice to consider that 15 years ago, with 12 member states, the European Union spent 1.12 percent of the EU’s GDP. Today, with 25 members, its spends 1 percent of its GDP. Imagine what the effect of Turkey’s membership would be. That is why Turkey’s accession is being rejected by those who want Europe’s political unification to proceed, and why it is being supported by those what want a loose common market in Europe. Athens has a unique opportunity to move between these two European camps, securing important political returns for its national interest. December 17 is not the end but the beginning of a long trial for Turkey itself, the beginning of a period of major disagreements within Europe and the beginning of a challenge for Greece in the formulation of its foreign policy. Until last March, we had no foreign policy. We had simply put our wishful thinking on Brussels’s automatic pilot. (1) Antonis Samaras was foreign minister during ND’s term in power (1989-92).